Jacob and his family were on their way back to the Holy Land after a twenty-year sojourn with Laban. As they approached the area where his brother Esau lived, Jacob sent messengers on ahead to Esau:

Jacob sent messengers ahead to his brother Esau… He instructed them to deliver the following message: "To my lord Esau: Your humble servant Jacob says: I have been staying with Laban, and have delayed my return until now. I have acquired oxen and donkeys, sheep, servants and maid-servants, and now I am sending word to inform my lord, to gain favor in your eyes." (Gen. 32:4-6)

Laban was a powerful sorcerer….

Rabbi Aba asked: Why did Jacob make contact with Esau. It would have been better to pass quietly by. [But Jacob reasoned as follows:] I know that Esau respects our father [Isaac] and he would never [do anything] to make him angry. Thus, I know that while father is still alive I have nothing to fear from Esau. But now that my father is elderly, I should make amends with my brother. And so he immediately sent messengers ahead to Esau.

He instructed them to deliver the following message…: I have been staying with Laban, and have delayed my return until now. Rabbi Yehudah asked: What was Jacob's intention in sending messengers to inform Esau that he had been living with Laban? What did he achieve by telling him this? However, Laban's [infamous] reputation had spread far and wide. [It was known] that not one person [against whom he had a vendetta] had escaped him, for Laban was a powerful sorcerer. He was the father of Be'or (see Sanhedrin 105a; Bamidbar Rabba, Balak), who was the father of Balaam, about whom it is written, "Balaam the son of Be'or, the sorcerer" (Joshua 13:22), but he outstripped them all in his knowledge of sorcery and black magic. And yet he was not able to destroy Jacob, although he tried to do so in many different ways, as the verse states, "[Laban] the Aramean [tried] to destroy Jacob" (Deut. 26:5). [Accordingly, Jacob sent messengers to inform Esau that if Laban could not overpower him, Esau would surely fail to do so].

Rabbi Aba [expanding on the above] said: The entire world knew that Laban was the Grand Sorcerer, and whomever he wished to destroy could not escape. Everything that Balaam knew he learned from Laban, and about Balaam it states, "Whomever you bless will be blessed, and whomever you curse will be cursed" (Num. 22:6). [Therefore the same powers are attributed to Laban,] so that everyone was afraid of Laban and his sorcery.

He was as afraid of Jacob, as Jacob was of him….

Accordingly, the first thing that Jacob reported to Esau was that he had lived with Laban. And in case Esau would think that this was only for a short while, a month or a year, [he pointed out that] this was not so, for "I have delayed my return until now", for twenty years.

"…Oxen and donkeys": Now if [Esau] would think that he came away empty-handed, [so that even though he survived his encounter with Laban, but at least he did not benefit from it, Jacob informs him,] "I have acquired oxen and donkeys..." These two [oxen and donkeys, represent] harsh decrees.

They represent the male and female elements of kelipa. (Damesek Eliezer) The male aspect of kelipa is the active element, forcibly dispersing its spiritually impure seed abroad. The female element is that which entices sparks of holiness into the shells of impurity so that they become trapped within the kelipa.

Accordingly, whenever the two of them are found together, there are always evil consequences. And for this reason we are commanded, "Do not plow with an ox and a donkey together"(Deut. 22:10).

"…Sheep, servants and maid-servants": These are the lower crowns [the ten impure sefirot of kelipa (ibid.), called "crowns" because each of them declares, "Only I am fit to rule, and all have to be subjugated beneath me", see Meor v'Shemesh, Vayeitzei] that the Holy One, Blessed be He, would destroy in Egypt [via the ten plagues (Damesek Eliezer)] - the first-born animals (Ex. 12:29), first-born of the prisoners (ibid.), first-born of the maid-servants (ibid. 11:5). Immediately, Esau became afraid and came out to meet Jacob. He was as afraid of Jacob, as Jacob was of him.

[Translation and commentary by Moshe Miller of Zohar I, 166a-b;
First published by Fiftieth Gate Publications and Seminars.]